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Pierre Arsenault

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Pierre Jean Arsenault

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[edit] Biographical Information

Pierre Arsenault was a catcher when he played amateur baseball while growing up in Montreal, QC and was signed by the Chicago White Sox as an non-drafted free agent in 1985. He never played in the minor leagues, though, and after his release, he studied sociology at Concordia University in Montreal. He got a part-time job as a batting practice pitcher with the Montreal Expos during home games in 1987. The following year, he was hired as a full-time bullpen catcher and traveled with the team until he was hired as a French-language radio analyst in 1990.

On November 4, 1991, he was hired as the team's bullpen coach for the next season, replacing Ken Macha who had left the team to join the Expos' former manager, Buck Rodgers, with the California Angels. Arsenault was hired as much for his communications skills and his ability to act as a spokesman for manager Tom Runnells and the coaching staff to the French-language media, as for his baseball skills. However, he was kept on staff when Runnells was fired and replaced by Felipe Alou on May 22, 1992, and he earned Alou's respect through his ability to work with relief pitchers, beginning with ace closer John Wetteland who had his first big year that summer, saving 37 games. Alou kept him on staff for all his years as the Expos' manager, and while Wetteland moved on in the post 1994 strike fire sale, Arsenault helped the emergence of other outstanding closers such as Mel Rojas and Ugueth Urbina.

In 2000, the team's new owner, Jeffrey Loria, brought a couple of his old friends to spring training, former New York Mets Manager Jeff Torborg and minor-league pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. With the threat of being replaced by Torborg hanging over his head, Alou had to demote Arsenault to co-bullpen coach to make room for Arnsberg on his staff at the beginning of the season. Then, on July 20th, dissatisfied with the team's play, Loria instructed Alou to fire pitching coach Bobby Cuellar and bench coach Luis Pujols, two close friends, and to make Arnsberg his pitching coach. For Arsenault, it meant that he was back to being in sole charge of the bullpen, where he worked with young Steve Kline and Scott Strickland, who were trying to fill the injured Urbina's shoes. As had long been expected, Alou was finally let go on May 31, 2001 and Torborg was brought in to replace him.

After the season, Major League Baseball played a game of musical chairs among franchises as it was trying to contract the Expos and the Minnesota Twins. Loria swapped his ownership shares in the Expos for ownership of the Florida Marlins, and decided to bring all of the soon-to-be-contracted Expos' transferable property with him, including the team's computers, scouting files, spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida, and all of its coaching staff. Arsenault had little choice but to accept the move to Florida, since the only prospect left to him in Montreal was unemployment. He had to accept another demotion however, as Jeff Cox, who had been the Expos' third base coach in 2001, was moved to bullpen coach and he became the "bullpen coordinator". The move made absolutely no logical sense, since Cox was a former infielder with experience as a minor league manager and as major league base coach, but not with pitching in any shape or form. In fact, Arsenault kept the same duties as were his in Montreal. This only lasted for a season, until Cox was promoted to bench coach in 2002, and Arsenault re-claimed his former title.

On May 10, 2003, Loria turned on his former protégés Torborg and Arnsberg, firing them both and bringing in veteran manager Jack McKeon to head the team. This turned out to be a fateful move, since McKeon would light a fire under the Marlins and take them all the way to the second World Championship in the team's young history. Arsenault found himself briefly in the media's line of fire after the change, as some local journalists, perhaps unaware of his decade of coaching experience, said that he should have been dismissed as well, as he was "nothing more than a glorified bullpen catcher". He was being blamed for the early-season struggles of Braden Looper and Vladimir Nunez, and in the shuffle that followed McKeon's appointment, Cox was sent back to the bullpen, making way for Doug Davis as the Marlins' new bench coach. In 2004, Cox replaced Ozzie Guillen, who had been hired by the White Sox as their new manager, as the Marlins' third base coach and Arsenault returned to be "bullpen coordinator" while another former infielder, Tony Taylor, was the nominal bullpen coach. However, by 2005, he had regained his rightful title.

Through all of this rather shabby treatment, Arsenault maintained his dignity and his professionalism. He always had a talent for working with major league pitchers, even if his background was not that of a typical coach. As a former catcher, he knew when a pitcher had his best stuff and what the pitcher needed to work on to get the most of his talent; as a gifted communicator, he was able to relay this information to his charges. The best proof of his ability is the success of the pitchers he worked most closely with, and his ability to re-surface in his job once the storms passed.

As of 2009, he was the Florida Marlins' bullpen coordinator, and also worked at a baseball academy for children in Quebec. [[1]]

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